A video essay on Minecraft’s survival mode.

Proteus indulges the fable of the “simple life” where we co-exist peacefully with the ecosystem. It asks me to lose myself in the majesty of nature and its joyous, playful manner is beguiling… but the code protects the island above all else. We cannot even take a blade of grass or petal of a flower with us and we leave no footprints behind. Violations of Proteus law are forbidden. Nature is immutable. Nature is God.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.



  • Video by Joel Goodwin

Games Shown

  • Minecraft, Mojang
  • Proteus, Key & Kanaga


  • Mountain Men, History Channel
  • Space 1999 “Breakaway”
  • Space 1999 “Dragon’s Domain”


From the album Minecraft – Volume Beta by C418:

  • “Alpha”
  • “The End”
  • “Ballad of the Cats”
  • “Mutation”


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12 thoughts on “The Minecraft Industrial Revolution

  1. Hurrah! That was brilliant, and my my, you have been a busy bee Mr Goodwin! That’s one hell of a way to get around and I actually laughed out loud when the rail map overlay appeared.

    It’s an interesting thing to put Minecraft beside Proteus because I think the two share a very particular spirit, even if they’re diametrically opposed in many ways. My experience with Minecraft was one without enemies so that probably helps me connect the two as well. I once said about Proteus: “[It’s] Minecraft for those who don’t want to mine or craft” and your video very clearly shows the huge impact those two things can potentially have on an untouched world (I suppose in that sense, Proteus’ is ‘untouchable’). Those poor pigs and sheepses.

    By the way, is this the same world your children play/have played in?

    Also, I really love some of the music in Minecraft, particularly Mice on Venus: https://youtu.be/zFSuYmraZ0k

  2. Loving the juxtaposition.

    Another fascinating thing about Minecraft is the way people impose themselves on the landscape. You can see personality in what they carve away, or don’t, and what they build, or don’t.

  3. Great game and great reflection. I started playing a hardcore game, the first in many years, and began constructing a shell around me so that I would always have a safe path to walk, always lit, littered with enclosed farms and pastures, but with windows looking out upon the world. The idea was to create a game that if anyone else loaded the save, they couldn’t easily die from an accident. Because I started on an island, these ended up being bridges too long for a single inventory’s worth of materials, stretching into nothing, often left unfinished. The first ‘natural’ land I reached (since most were ‘artificially’ created, floating on the water) ended up having a huge pit, which I filled with water so that you couldn’t accidentally fall, but it was so deep that in trying to make it to the bottom I almost drowned. I’ve yet to make it to another island, and effectively haven’t gone anywhere.

    The effort it takes to be truly ‘safe’ in Minecraft almost certainly involves building cages, then never leaving them.

  4. I was expecting this video to include an examination of Minecraft’s mod scene, which has included extensive industrialisation mods for a long time. I recall that some of them go as far as allowing nuclear power generation.

    You could see these mods as an extension of Minecrafters’ inherent desire to gain power over the wilderness, but I feel like vanilla Minecraft is already quite restrained with the industrialisation options it gives you. Railways and redstone mechanisms were initially the most high-tech options available and the rest of the game had more of a fantasy survivalist feel to it, and that’s only been expanded with things like potion brewing and enchanting, even if it does quickly elevate the player to a god among men.

    As much as Minecraft allows you to scar the natural landscape beyond recognition, it’s also good at providing means for environmentalism. Cut down trees can be replanted, grass can spread to bare dirt, flowers can be regrown. The only thing I feel is missing is that animals can’t procreate independently, and will only do so with your assistance, but at least this lets you prevent the cows from going extinct in the fields around your dwelling.

    This does reinforce the notion that Minecraft is made for you, the player, as a canvas to leave your mark on, because otherwise the world remains completely static. Wolves hunting grazers is the one exception, and yet they only exist for you to tame them anyway. The environmentalist sentiment is strong enough for me that I’d wish that life had a bigger impact on the world of Minecraft rather than just being another brush to paint with.

  5. Now that I am back from Lanzarote, it is time to respond to comments! Especially after appearing on RPS this weekend.

    @Gregg: Already there’s a new station at the “north end” of the Bedrock Line (black) since I made the video. And I still have designs for Nether Express routes, except there’s the eternal problem of zombie pigmen spawning on them. That is probably ONE of the most annoying things about Minecraft – that to stop creatures spawning you have to put light EVERYWHERE. (And that rule doesn’t even apply in the Nether either.)

    I’d wanted to relate the idea that Proteus is authoritarian for some time but I never had a whole article for it. When I wanted to talk about how Minecraft was the old libertarian fantasy of working the land with your hands, it made a contrast to how the rules of Proteus forces players off the grass. In a way, Minecraft is Minecraft for those who don’t want to mine and craft – you don’t have to if you don’t want to. But are there players who simply wander and explore?

    Your question answered: No, my children have their own worlds. My son has his world we help out in (and for some reason his home area was always awash with evil, it’s really nasty at night) and my daughter works in a creative mode world. I guess I am not comfortable letting them run riot in my world…

    I used to get high on Living Mice and its variations but I think my real favourite is Dreiton which only seems to play in Creative Mode. I originally hoped to wrap it into the video but it didn’t really fit. Perhaps if I do another Minecraft video…

    @ShaunCG: I dare not ask what you see of my personality in my rail system. Side note – I currently find redstone machines tiresome. They seem to require so much effort and also a great deal of your architecture needs to account for “machinery” if you want to build something into it. Maybe one day.

    @Dan Lowe: Hello Dan and welcome! God that sounds like the kind of world design that would drive you mad. Health & Safety: The Minecraft World! Hardcore is definitely not for me at this juncture. The video features my first world (there was an “Alpha” world but I started out on an island in the middle of the sea and soon decided to grab this “Beta” world) and I’ve just been feeling for ideas and thoughts. Many of my ideas would suit creative better but, agh, I just feel creative is so “artificial” for me? Being that safe feels wrong.

    @mwm: Interesting, so in Sky Block there are no environmental concerns – as there’s no pre-existing environment. You literally are God because without you there is no landscape. Jeez, if I could write about Minecraft all the time maybe I would give some mods a go.

    Someone mentioned on Twitter a mod if you want to go to town on the industrial aspect: Better Than Wolves.

    @LTK: Hello! You are right that the out-of-the-box Minecraft supports a more ecofriendly approach – you can breed animals, and cultivate – and that mods chase player desires for more exploitation of the natural world.

    We were concerned less for a direct conservation analogue, more that we were destroying the world’s natural beauty. The animal issue is just an example of how easy it is to rob an area of its natural state and how the game suggests it is all for you. You can put the animals back, but it never quite feels the same. Especially if they are in pens. Those lavafalls that are so annoying and hazardous that it’s safer to edit them out – but they are precisely the kind of thing that give caves their beauty and uniqueness.

    We don’t have any formal rules of conservation but this is a rough list of how are activities have changed:

    * not deleting natural lava and water sources, although we will add paths through/around lava fields/bodies of water

    * not connecting distinct cave formations if possible as this dilutes cave identity (some caves are completely sealed so is unavoidable if you want to explore)

    * not killing animals in the wild, only replenishible farm stock (to some extent this is standard Minecraft practice, but we’re quite awkward around killing in the wild now)

    * not excavating everything from a cave: coal and iron are so abundant, there’s no reason to do so; we also stopped looting abandoned mineshafts for wood (honestly we used to strip EVERYTHING)

    * infestations and spawn points are not considered protected

    * more adventurously – we’ve tried to leave caves gloomy and not filling them with light to maintain their aura of threat and mystery (removing torches as we move through them)

    * my wife likes to build structures that make use of natural features like caves and mountainsides (as we just discovered is much like the work of Lanzarote artist Cesar Manrique)

    The game is already wired for exploitation: you’re free to do what you want with anything you find. This is kind-of Game 101, of course. I’d be more interested in mods which showed the consequences of industrial activity as opposed to harmless inventory stockpiling (someone is going to point one out now!) but then Minecraft became successful on being a fun sandbox to build in. Take that away and maybe it diminishes what Minecraft is.

    It’s getting quite late so maybe this comment doesn’t make as much sense as I think it does!

  6. “But are there players who simply wander and explore?”

    I used to wander and explore… and punch trees and pigs. Does that count?

  7. No, Gregg. You never left the trees and pigs alone. Bad Gregg.

    More seriously: You don’t play straight survival, so you have less concerns for keeping yourself alive, closer to creative mode.

  8. Gregg, I see why you’ve added it to this thread – certainly looks interesting and definitely up my Minecraft road. But I am sceptical, of course. And do I really want to share the world with other people? GOD NO 🙂

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